By Rachel Ambelang
The list of Baylor alumni who have made a mark in the entertainment industry now includes Damon Crump, who released his film “Risen” in 2008.
However, “Risen” was not Crump’s first project in the business. He heads his own film and video production company, Jackalope Entertainment, stationed in Waco.
In addition to running the company, Crump has played virtually every role in the filmmaking process from producer to camera operator on a number of projects.
Crump’s credits aside from his own films include two from Chris Hansen, who is the director of the film and digital media department at Baylor. These films are “The Proper Care of an American Messiah” and “Endings.”
Crump has previously worked on films in other genres, but “Risen” marks his first foray into horror. It is a zombie movie, set in Waco, and follows two parents who are trying to find their daughter amongst the mobs of flesh-eating zombies that have invaded the town.
Crump began working on “Risen” after another Waco local name, David Talbot, contacted him with the story behind the movie.
“[Talbot] was a huge zombie fan and had made it a goal of his to make a zombie movie. So he wrote the original story and a script,” Crump said.
Talbot realized his lack of experience would keep him from making a quality film. Because of this, Talbot began searching for a team to help him produce the film.
“He looked nationwide before finding me right here in Waco,” Crump said.
Crump said that one of the best parts of making “Risen” was reuniting with Baylor faculty, students and alumni in order to get the film made.
Crump contacted one of his best friends, John Franklin, whom he met at Baylor in 1969, to work as the lead cinematographer for the film.
Crump said that Ron Garrett, one of the engineers in the film and digital media department, was essential in getting the equipment he needed to make the film.
“I’ve known Daniel since I started working here almost eleven years ago,” Garrett said.
Garrett said that Crump helped with several of the department’s projects. Crump also named film professors Michael Korpi, Corey Carbonara, and Brian Elliot as influential partners in producing his film.
Crump allowed several students from the department to participate in the development of the film.
“[Crump] always helped us out, and I was happy to help him out in any way I could,” Garrett said.
Crump said finding actors to portray zombies was not a major problem for him.
“Apparently when you do a zombie film, people come out of the woodwork,” Crump said.
Despite the fact that he needed hundreds of zombies during sections of the film, Crump said he had such a huge turnout that he eventually had to start turning people away. Crump found out that people were coming from as far away as North Dakota, Iowa and New Jersey.
“It was amazing how far people would come in even for just one day of the experience,” Crump said.
Many of those zombies were Waco residents. Crump did not just set the story of “Risen” in Waco; he also shot parts of the movie at Baylor, as well as Bellmead, Woodway, Hewitt, and Lacy Lakeview.
“I was born and raised in Waco, so I have a lot of home town pride,” Crump said, “Plus it has been fun for the community having it
Crump also used a local for one of the bigger roles in the film. Stephen Lee, who is a lawyer in the Belton area, played one of the male leads.
Gordon Collier, a newscaster for Waco’s KWTX, even made a cameo in the film as a newscaster reporting that an unexplainable medical pandemic had taken over the city.
The film has received attention from film aficionados in the Waco community like Matt Cardin.
Cardom is the co-founder of Waco’s horror festival The Dark Mirror as well as a writing instructor at McLennan Community College.
“Risen” was screened at this year’s The Dark Mirror festival and received feedback there.
“To see and hear [Bellmead] as the epicenter of a zombie outbreak is simultaneously delightful and demented,“ Cardin wrote on the festival’s website.
After more than a year and a half of work on the film, Crump finished “Risen.” Crump had taken on several jobs besides director to make the film, including producing and editing the final cut, but Crump said that all of work was well worth it.
“I have great passion for the film and video business. There’s nothing better than doing your hobby as a full-time job,” Crump said, “Directing ‘Risen’ was definitely one of my best experiences so far.”